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The Last Tycoon
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last Tycoon is a drama set in 1930s Hollywood about movies and the people who make them. It's got some mature content: Characters are seen having oral sex (no nudity), a woman is seen in a bra in a producer's office exchanging sex for professional favors, a man urinates from a balcony. A character jumps from a balcony; viewers see spattered blood and a dead body, at length. Female characters are presented as sex objects who are interchangeable -- they're often shown in brief and revealing outfits, including vintage lingerie, and appreciated only for their looks. Characters drink at dinners and parties; they get drunk and make terrible mistakes. Cursing includes "f--k," "damn," "hell," "ass," "goddamned." There's plenty of period-correct racism, sexism, and assorted other bigotry: expect to hear anti-Semitic and other slurs like "natives" and "Kraut."
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What's the story?
Based on the unfinished F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the same name, THE LAST TYCOON is set in 1930s Hollywood, where studio exec Monroe Stahr (Matt Bomer) is locked in a power struggle with studio head Pat Brady (Kelsey Grammer). While Pat wants to make movies that grab the greatest number of American eyeballs, the tortured, damaged Monroe is reaching for art. But he's not having an easy time of it with an ominous official from Nazi Germany hanging around, demanding the studio make concessions. For his part, Pat is having a crisis of conscience over the Depression-era shantytown that's sprung up next to his studio, where he finds and hires Okie striver Max Miner (Mark O'Brien) as his new heavy. He's also worried about his daughter Celia (Lily Collins), who wants to marry Monroe -- but that might prove complicated, since Monroe has designs of his own on Pat's wife Rose (Rosemarie DeWitt).
Is it any good?
The names in the credits say "quality drama," but this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's final, unfinished novel is old-fashioned, not classic. Monroe sails through the office like a lesser Don Draper, barking out orders to secretaries and scriptwriters as women giggle and gawk in his wake. Everyone, it seems, can't stop talking about Monroe Stahr, something another character literally says at one point. Except he's not that fascinating to the viewer. So it quickly grows irritating hearing how brilliant and magnetic and heroic he is, despite a scene designed to show us he's fragile, too: "He has a congenital defect in his aorta," says Pat. "One day his heart's literally going to explode." Do we hear a clumsy metaphor?
It's always fun seeing elegant parties, women in satin, live jazz bands, and vintage Hollywood back lots with costumed extras. But The Last Tycoon is no Great Gatsby, not even close. The characters, too thinly drawn, don't land; they come off as props making speeches about Hollywood's many sins (Fitzgerald was a frustrated screenwriter, after all). One final, nitpicky detail: In a movie set in the 1930s, the women are styled in a very modern way. Lily Collins' full brows would have looked mighty odd in an era when thin, plucked arches (think Greta Garbo) were all the rage; other characters wear similarly period-incorrect shades and styles. It's the kind of small detail that a show like Mad Men always got right, and clumsier dramas don't. Maybe that's why Don Draper is an original, and Monroe Stahr, despite being written decades earlier, comes off like a poor imitation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why dramas about Hollywood and movie-making are so common. What others besides The Last Tycoon can you name? Why do writers like Hollywood as a setting? What dramatic possibilities does it offer?
Which aspects of the show's period time setting seem modern and which seem old-fashioned? Consider dialogue, costumes, language, and settings. Were you surprised by anything that appears in the time period of this series?
How does the show portray drinking? Is it glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? What mistakes do characters make while they are drinking?